Scottish Government provides digital application forms for most complex services

Sopra Steria has been working with Scottish Government's Social Security Directorate to deliver digital benefits applications

PEOPLE in Scotland can now, for the first time, apply for these benefits online via a digital portal which offers the following benefits:

  • Reducing application length: the online forms have removed the need for people to complete the previous lengthy paper forms, designed by the UK Government, reducing the lead time for applications
  • Easier to digest: research showed that many found the paper forms difficult to understand but the digital forms addressed key user needs, offering alternative ways of asking for required information 
  • Scalable platform: Sopra Steria developed a scalable platform which simplifies the data sharing process, enabling the Scottish Government process large volumes of applications
  • Ethical approach: the online platform provides an ethical approach, ensuring that people are paid the right amount at the right time

Sopra Steria has been working with Scottish Government’s Social Security Directorate to deliver digital benefits applications since 2017.

Following a successful discovery phase, Sopra Steria developed a scalable platform and were contracted to build a digital application form for two of the most complex services, Child Disability Payment and Adult Disability Payment. The outcome of the high-profile project is that people in Scotland can, for the first time, apply for these benefits online, simplifying the data sharing process and reducing the lead time for applications.

The three-year contract covers Alpha and Beta development phases for both benefit services. The Child Disability Payment pilot was successfully launched in summer 2021, with national rollout following in November 2021. Adult Disability Payment has been piloted from March 2022 with national rollout to follow in summer.

The Business Challenge

Benefit applications had previously been submitted on lengthy paper forms which were designed by the UK Government. A number of clients commented that these forms were difficult to understand and complete. This application process took a long time and lacked a digital audit trail. There were concerns about the accessibility of the form and the potential to exclude people who may need further support and guidance.

To fully digitise the service, the team at Sopra Steria needed a clear understanding of the range of users that might access the application form. Just one of the services included an incredible 700 user stories.

The Engagement

During the Alpha phase, their User Research led process validated and elaborated on the user needs found during the Discovery phase. Their Agile approach identified the highest priority and most complex sections of the application. A prototype of these sections was created and iteratively worked on by the Service Design, User Experience and User Research teams. Regular checks ensured the designs were grounded in policy, technical and security considerations.

The Deliverables

To ensure their User Research embodied Social Security Scotland’s ethos of treating people with dignity, fairness and respect, the team at Sopra Steria worked collaboratively with business process owners to transform the application form into an intuitive, easy-to-digest and simplified process. The digital service needed to offer inclusivity and deliver the ability to process large volumes of applications, ensuring people are paid the right amount at the right time.

The key Beta deliverable was the Digital Portal for benefits applications, designed based on the client’s agreed standards and templates. In addition, Sopra Steria produced technical design papers for review by the programme’s Architecture Review Board, regular governance updates reviewing progress, dependencies and time to completion.

The Outcomes

The Digital Portal was extensively and successfully tested with people with a variety of lived experience of disabilities, including vision and hearing impairments, learning disabilities and reduced motor capacity.

The revolutionary portal enables people to apply for disability benefits online for the first time in the UK. During the pilot phase more than 70% of applications were made on a mobile device.

A digital form means Social Security Scotland receives people’s data in stages, allowing the application process to begin while the client completes the form. This key innovation significantly reduces the overall time from application start to decision. 

In addition, the portal incorporated logic and question branching so people only saw questions relevant to them, shortening the application process and making the form much less overwhelming. The digital form design addressed key user needs that the old paper form did not. It gave alternative ways of asking for required information that people found easier to understand and respond to.


The Sopra Steria team and the client team worked in close partnership with other suppliers involved in the integration. This joint skilled team identified risks, dependencies and unknowns early and came up with practical solutions and approaches for mitigation. Despite the impact of COVID-19, this close relationship enabled Sopra Steria and Social Security Scotland to deliver the Digital Portal in line with committed policy dates.

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